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96         HISTORY OF WESTERN EDUCATION

of pagan learning in a professedly Christian community had made
a large section of the people distrustful of them and little disposed
to do anything to avert their ruin. This left the defence of
culture mainly in the hands of those members of the former
governing class who were still to a considerable extent pagans at
heart, in spite of a veneer of Christianity. But the zeal for learn-
ing which had been fostered by the association of a special kind
of education with official position soon dwindled when under the
changed conditions education was no longer the passport to
wealth and power. And so the schools disappeared, as much
by reason of their own weakness as by reason of barbarian
ignorance and indifference.

The course of this educational declension can be most easily
followed in Gaul. There, as it happens, the successive stages in
the downward movement of Roman culture have been mirrored
with great clearness in the writings of three men living in
the heart of things in the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Centuries.
Ausonius (309-394) was the most distinguished teacher of his
time. After teaching grammar in the municipal school of
Bordeaux, his native town, he gained great renown as a rhetor-
ician and was appointed tutor to Gratian, On the accession of
his pupil to the imperial throne, he was made prefect of Italy
and Africa, and subsequently of Gaul, and finally reached the
supreme office of consul. When Gratian fell, he retired to
Acquitania, and spent the rest of his life in learned ease, super-
intending his grandson's education and writing poems of consider-
able grace and distinction. From these poems, which abound in
references to his scholastic experiences and friendships, we can
reconstruct the life and studies of the Gallic schools of the Fourth
Century. They show that at that time Roman education, sub-
stantially as it is presented in the pages of Quintilian, was flourish-
ing among the upper classes of Gaul and enjoying the imperial
favour, as in the best days of the Empire. Literary instruction
had perhaps grown more arid, and the rhetoric of the schools
more academic, but there was nothing to hint at the impending
decline. With Sidonius Apollinaris (circa 430-484), statesman
and bishop, we find ourselves in a new era in the history of
letters* In the intervening years the barbarians had been
gradually encroaching on the Roman dominions and setting
up new kingdoms at their expense. Nevertheless, the darkest